OAKLAND - Sometimes, experience is overrated.
The Denver Broncos play big games under the lights five or six times a year in the regular season, and then one to three more in the playoffs in recent time.
The Oakland Raiders haven’t had a winning record since 2002. Yet, for this AFC West first-place showdown on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, it was the Broncos who came out stricken by stage fright while the Raiders floated with the emotionally charged atmosphere.
As the longtime rivals reached halftime on a pleasant early November evening not far from The Bay, the Raiders led the Broncos, 20-10, at the nuttier-than-usual Black Hole inside the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Prior to the game, Broncos’ linebacker Brandon Marshall ended his protest against social injustice in this country by deciding to stand for the National Anthem. He stood next to head coach Gary Kubiak, who had his linebacker in recent weeks that he wanted to support him by standing by him when Marshall was ready to stand.
A 55-yard field goal by Brandon McManus as the first half expired gave the Broncos some momentum going into halftime.
Three possessions in for both teams, the Raiders were dominating play and up, 13-0 on the scoreboard.
Broncos newly minted captain Trevor Siemian got his team going in the second quarter by completing a 23-yard pass to an adjusting Demaryius Thomas down the left sideline. It was the Broncos’ first, first down of the game.
Four plays later, Siemian rolled right – directly into the face of a pass rush -- and calmly delivered a 36-yard strike to slot receiver Jordan Norwood for a touchdown. That narrowed the score to 13-7.
But the Raiders quickly marched 75 yards for a touchdown with 1:25 left in the half thanks to a 42-yard run by tailback Latavius Murray and a 23-yard pass interference call on Bradley Roby on a third-and-10 play. Instead of incomplete, fourth down on a Carr pass that was wild because of pressure applied by Broncos’ linebacker
DeMarcus Ware, the Roby penalty gave the Raiders first-and-goal at the 1.
Murray eventually scored on his second, 1-yard touchdown.
Roby was having a tough night in second game replacing the injured Aqib Talib. Roby was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his pick six effort against San Diego last week but in this game he missed two tackles that led to long gains and had the P.I. that eventually gave the Raiders a touchdown.
Entering the game, the Broncos’ offense had failed to generate a first down on 40 percent of its drives, the highest rate in the NFL. It then went three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out on its only three drives in the first quarter.
Siemian started 0 for 6. He did have two first-down completions dropped by new tight end A.J. Derby and old tight end Virgil Green.
The Broncos’ first drive of the second quarter? Three and out. It was the most dismal display of Broncos’ offense in recent memory.
The Denver defense put up some fight, although poor starting defensive field position meant it would eventually break against the Raiders’ Derek Carr.
This is a quarterback living up to his press clippings. Far more composed, accurate and confident than he was against the Broncos during his first two seasons, Carr started his third season against the Broncos completing 9 of 12 for 108 yards. He led his team to a 13-0 lead with scores off each of his first three possessions.
The Raiders started their three series at their own 48, their own 42 and own 43. That’s not far to go. The first two drives ended in short Sebastian Janikowski field goals, who at that point became the ninth kicker in NFL history to make 400 in his career.
The Raiders finally broke the Denver D when Murray was given a touchdown on a 1-yard leap.
But as happens with so many Bronco contests since Gary Kubiak became their head coach last season, they bounced back. Siemian found his touch. Janikowski missed a field goal for the 101st time of his career.
With 22 seconds left in the first half, it appeared Siemian had thrown a beautiful 44-yard touchdown pass to receiver Emmanuel Sanders. But the leaping Sanders had the ball slide through his arms as he falling to the ground. The Broncos settled for the McManus’ first field goal beyond 50 yards this season.
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